Interview storm out is not good. There are no two ways about it. What people remember is the storm out and not the issue of the protest. A trained TV interviewee knows that nothing is worth the negative publicity.
In 1982 it was BBC interviewer Robin Day and Secretary of State for Defence John Nott. In 1997 it was TV presenter Clive Anderson and the Bee Gees. This summer it was Sky News presenter Mark Longhurst and journalist Owen Jones.
All these interviews are notable for one thing and one thing only: that part way through, the interviewees made the decision to clumsily extract the microphones from their lapels, and storm off the set.
The fact that I’m grouping them together here (and the fact that you can no doubt bring them to mind so easily) is proof that the unexpected exit of the guest is what made them stand out.
What the debate was actually about – the precise moment that the interview took the turn which led to their departure – is impossible to recall. It requires a Google search or tracking down of a YouTube video to re-establish the issues under discussion.
Media training basic: your message is your priority
And therein lies the problem: if communicating your key message is your number one priority – and in media interviews, it should always be your number one priority – the fact that you flounced off will overshadow everything you had said up until that point.
Worse still, there is the inference (however unfair it may be) that you couldn’t cope; that you’d lost the argument; that you couldn’t handle dissenting views; that the heat became so great, you had to get out of the kitchen.
Media training basic: what does the audience remember?
The audience won’t even remember which line of argument you appeared to be losing, but simply that you lost it, and perhaps escaped the confines of the studio to prevent yourself from further embarrassment.
Owen Jones was on Sky News as a guest newspaper reviewer, following the mass shooting in Orlando – the worst in American history, which left 49 people dead and 53 wounded. As the attack took place in a gay club, Jones wanted to make the point that it was a homophobic hate crime as well as terrorism and needed to be named as such.
Presenter Mark Longhurst suggested instead that it was an attack on the “freedom of people trying to enjoy themselves” on a night out. Feeling that he was unable to get his point across, Jones left.
Explaining the reason for his departure the following day, Owen Jones wrote: “It is possible for an atrocity to be more than one thing at the same time. You are not compelled to select one option or the other. Life – with both its horrors and its joys – is incredibly complicated, and we have a rich language able to capture its complexities.”
All true, of course. But you are unable to express that position if you cease to stay in the studio to say it.
Photo credit: creative commons by 2.5
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